After a quiet show by his own high standards, Michael Whitaker ended his visit to HOYS in style by claiming the £7,500 in the Golden Bear Grand Prix, which incorporated the coveted Leading Show Jumper of the Year.
The start list for this class was virtually a Who’s Who of British show jumping but it was Dutch visitor Leon Thijssen, already a double winner here, who pushed Britain’s number one all the way.
From second draw in a nine-horse jump-off, Leon produced a great round on Nairobi and he held on until Michael came in at eighth to go. Portofino looked a class apart and a marvellous round put this mare, who is still improving, almost 1sec ahead.
Third place went to Duncan Inglis, who jumped the only other double clear on another impressive mare, his home-bred Sunkist, who was ridden into third place by Henry Turrell in last year’s Horse & Hound Foxhunter final.
The earlier Speed Horse of the Year was an entertaining class that went to William Funnell on Cortaflex Machiavelli. William, who was gaining his first victory since sustaining a groin injury at the Royal International in July, took the lead away from John Whitaker on Lactic 2 at the midway point and hung on to win by 0.21sec.